Ferndale Library Book of Patron Art Still Has Pages to Be Filled
(Crystal A. Proxmire, April 15, 2016)
Ferndale, MI – Wearing a Hello Kittyesque tunic, Emile Zola on wheels holds a dotted book open, tangled in the swirls of his lengthy beard.
On another page a woman pushes a cake full of mopey friends into the jaws of a waiting shark.
There is a guitar-wielding skeleton in a top hat smoking, a one-eyed fluffy beast eating cookies and milk in bed, and flowers springing from a person’s head in honor of the blossoming season.
Among the pictures are phrases, lone words, and entire poems:
“Rest your weary head and find stillness.”
“The nagging voice of intense appetite.”
“What the hell am I gonna do with this space?”
“I am fricken crazy but I am free.”
“Let your imagination run wild.”
The collected experiences of neighbors and strangers makes “Two Twenty Two: A Community Art Project of the Ferndale Public Library” a unique kind of art book.
Drawing in library books is typically frowned upon, but Two Twenty Two is made for just that. Patrons can check out the oversized sketch book to enjoy the work of others as well as add some of their own.
The project was started in 2013 by the Arts and Exhibitions Committee as a way to gather, share and archive art created by library patrons. Committee Member Linden Godlove was inspired by Post Secret projects and the 100 Journals Project, as well as by learning that the computer system used to check out items would allow the library to create entries for items that had not been published elsewhere.
“I was so inspired by Kelly Bennett getting all these rock CDs catalogued,” she said. “People would just bring in a CD they made with a song on it and the name in black marker, and Kelly could put them in the system and they were part of our collection. It got me thinking about the possibilities.”
Over 30 artists have left their mark. Godlove got the ball rolling with a sketch of two people sitting in the grass back to back. “It represents the nature of this book. It’s a shared creative space, but also solitary,” she said. She also checked the book out later and took it with her to Pennsylvania where she and two young nieces enjoyed making art about the things they might find behind a fairy door. Among the tiny library books, orange capped mushrooms and fairy dust, the three happy artists made not only a picture, but a memory.
Patrick Dengate was Chair of the Committee at the time. He designed the cover of “Two Twenty Two” and added a drawing of seashells done in Prismacolor pencil on a black sheet of paper.
“Making images and music is a basic human compulsion that some of us take further than others. It’s one way of making sense of the world around us (like storytelling), and for getting what’s inside our heads out onto paper, canvas, or into a listener’s ears,” Dengate said. When asked what inspired him, he said that “it’s not so much subject matter that inspires me but more basic things that catch my eye and compel me to reinterpret them in the studio. Such things as how a certain combination of colors, shapes, and lines interact that seem to hint at some hidden meaning—or are just interesting to look at. The drawing I did for 222 was a sketch inspired by the ellipses and whorls of shells, an irresistible (for me) subject.”
Towards the end of the book there are two pages of gouache and Sharpie ink that pop with brightness. One side is a smiling sunrise coming up over waves of purple and puce. The other is a pair of bronze patterned birds on branches with a background of chartreuse. “Put a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come,” is written in the branches.
Those were made by Peggy Kerwin, an artist from Novi who has been part of other art projects at the Ferndale Library. “I do happy art because I am a happy person. I love color, movement, whimsy, nature.”
Kewrin knew when she was young she was made to create. “In 7th grade when they asked what I wanted to be I said ‘cartoonist’ never realizing how difficult it is because you have to have a ‘story’. Well, decades later I’ve got lots of stories. (I’m turning 65 this year).” Kerwin is working on a cartoon series that is “not quite ready for prime time.” She’s working on a comic book now, and she’s got more art to be seen on her website https://www.flickr.com/photos/miss_peggy/.
Philip Stenger of Oak Park filled a page with doodles of various beasts doing various things. From a beast taking a bubble bath to an elegant bachelor beast with a bowtie and monocle saying “Excuse me do you carry Esquire,” the beasts are just enjoying life and being their beastly selves.
“Doing art helps to keep me calm and relaxed,” Stenger said. “Art is important for me because it’s a great tonic for anxiety. There is fulfillment in filling a blank piece of paper with “something”. It’s an active, not passive way to spend time, sort of like a work out for your creativity. It also gives me insight into what is going on inside my mind. Viewing art gives us a sense of the magical, the whimsical or even the terrible that can exist in the imagination. It can take us out of our ordinary existence and give us new perspectives on what “reality” is. It can remind us that there is creativity in all of us and we never know just what goes on inside someone’s head.”
When he found the book on the shelf, Stenger was naturally drawn to draw in it. “The 222 book is an amazing idea. It gives a voice to so many creative people. Ferndale Library is a great environment. When I enter I immediately feel a sense of excitement. I’ll always find something cool there. Staff are awesome, too.”
At one point in the book, there is a two page spread collage made of pages from a psychology book, perfectly torn and layerd to allow for the escape of “a tiny golem” made of text. Two well-drawn hands seem unable to hold the fleeing creature. The came from the imagination of Ferndale resident Alana Carlson and are made from a yellowed 1957 edition of “Psychology Made Simple.”
“Art is, at its most basic, a form of communication,” Carlson said. “I don’t want to get too heavy about it – kids learn to put marks on paper and make pictures before they learn to write, and sometimes if we really appreciate something someone’s made, we’ll say ‘it speaks to me.’ Although it’s a difficult thing to quantify or put a monetary value on, it’s incredibly important as a cultural record, a learning tool, therapy, and a way to connect with others.” Her collage was inspired by a dream that she tore out a page of a novel and made it into a little man and it ran away.
Carlson is a creative artist as well as a portrait artist who can be commissioned to paint people or animals. Her collection of “Paintings of Cats and Dogs Wearing Outfits & Stuff” can be found at http://alanas-pet-portraits.tumblr.com/ and her other work is at http://alanalorincarlson.tumblr.com/.
The book is about three quarters full, and there are pages missing in the middle. “It wasn’t censorship,” Linden said. “At a certain point the book started to get too thick because of all the stuff people were gluing in. It was starting to damage the spine so we thought taking out some pages would help relieve that.”
The book can be checked out like any other book would. There is a list of instructions at the beginning and a place to leave contributor information at the back. Learn more about the Ferndale Library at http://www.ferndalepubliclibrary.org/. Details of some of the works are included below. Check out the book to see the rest.
Ferndale Library Book of Patron Art Still Has Pages to Be Filled